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What to Keep in Mind If You Watch Sinead O’Connor's Heartbreaking Facebook Video

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Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Sarah Schuster, The Mighty’s Mental Health Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway. 

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

In a heartbreaking video posted on Facebook, Irish singer/songwriter Sinead O’Connor let her fans know she was struggling with suicidal thoughts and living in a motel in the U.S. She also wanted others like her, who feel alone in their struggle, to know they were just “one of millions.” She said:

I hope that this video is somewhat helpful, not actually to me, but the fact that I know I’m only one of millions and millions and millions of people in the world that are just like me, that don’t necessarily have the resources that I have. In my heart or my purse, for that matter.

O’Connor has been open about her post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis in the past and said she has been struggling alone for two years with only the support of her psychiatrist. Her family, she said, has used her mental illness to invalidate her, and that’s one of the reasons she left her home country.

At the end of her video, she encourages others to get to know people in their community who are struggling with mental illnesses and suggests visiting people in psychiatric hospitals so they know they are not alone:

I know I’m just one of millions, and that’s the only other thing that keeps me going too. I am making this video because I’m one of millions, and that should be our fucking catch phrase from now on. One of millions. One of fucking millions. Why are we alone?… For two years, my whole life revolved around just not dying, and that’s not living. I’m not going to die, I’m not going to die, but still, this is no way for people to be living in life.

Although O’Connor said some powerful things, it can be hard to watch something this raw and brutally honest. She calls out family members directly, and watching any celebrity seem so hopeless and alone can trigger those feelings within ourselves. If you watched or saw people sharing this video, here are three things we want you to keep in mind.

Be respectful.

Whenever a celebrity has a mental “breakdown” in a public way (think Britney Spears or Amanda Bynes) it seems they easily become the butt of pop culture jokes. It’s easy to laugh at things we don’t understand, and this can be especially true for some of the behaviors associated with mental illness. When someone in the public eye “acts out” or talks about struggling, be respectful. They are humans and deserve our support too. Remember: when you make fun of a celebrity for having a mental illness, you’re insulting everyone who lives with a mental illness. Although some do find humor in their own struggles, keep the jokes to yourself and keep the discourse respectful.

If you’re going to share, keep people in mind who might find the content triggering.

Although any “celebrity news” is unfortunately covered like gossip, for those personally affected by the topic, it can be hard to see a serious video like this covered in such a flippant way. If you feel the need to share news like this, include a content warning if necessary, and let people know where they can get help if they find the content triggering. If you live in the U.S., here are some resources you can share:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

Use it as an opportunity to reach out to people in your life.

We know seeing a celebrity in crisis can make you feel helpless. While they have a platform more easily accessible to us, it’s harder for us to make an impact on them. If leaving a supportive comment on social media doesn’t feel like enough, don’t forget about the people in your life you can have an effect on. If there’s someone you know who has a history of struggling with their mental health, reach out and remind them you care about them. We’re all in this together.

We also want to leave some words of support for others who feel alone or who don’t have a family to support them. O’Connor said repeatedly that she feels like her family has abandoned her. If this resonated with you, here are some things our community wants you to know.

1. “[My parents] have never been supportive, hold my illness against me and also do things that they’ve been told are counterproductive… Basically, if you have a family who is not supportive or negatively affects your mental health, you’re not alone. It sucks. Focus on yourself and work hard at building that strength (easier said that done, and there are slips, but it’s possible).” — Bevin N.

2. “Trust your doctor or hospital. If you are struggling and no one is there for you, it’s always OK to go see a professional.” — Steph H.

3. “Find a tribe. Family doesn’t always mean blood. It can be friends online, friends in real life. A support center, a phone line. Whatever it is. Find your own support family. You don’t need to [struggle] alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help, for someone to listen to you or check on you, someone will come. Promise.” — Amanda C.

4. “Find it within yourself to get through the battle… Go find a great support system. Unfortunately family doesn’t always understand, but you are not alone, ever! There are people like us always fighting, just go find them.” — Danni M.

5. “Family doesn’t end in blood. If your parents or siblings aren’t supportive I can assure you that your real friends will be there. Sometimes we find family on the places we expect the less.” — Sofy R.

6. “Love yourself first. It may feel silly at first, but give yourself a hug, kiss your own skin. Make self-care a ritual; when you’re feeling down treat yourself like you’re someone you love to pieces. Grab your favorite blanket, burn a favorite scent, put on a feel good movie and make yourself a special snack.” — Kayla A.

7. “Who understands you and who doesn’t does not matter unless you understand yourself. The light is within us. Don’t let that go off. When you hold your own hand, the problems will solve eventually. (Well, I tell this to myself every day.)” — Rucha N.

8. “Surround yourself with friends. I know it’s difficult because with depression and anxiety comes social anxiety and the fear of interaction. But true friends want your company and it’s good to just be around them and feel normal.” — Aaron M.

9. “Having just one person by your side can be the light at the end of the tunnel you need. Don’t let the people around you drag you down, it’s exactly what they want. You’ve gotta get through and you’ve gotta end up better on the other side, to show them you’re better than what they think you are.” — Brianne O.

10. “Seek help and build your own support system. It’ll be hard but worth it. Keep those who genuinely care about your wellbeing close. Whether they be friends, mentors, teachers, mental health professionals etc. you have to be your own advocate, reach out and get the help you deserve!” — Cherish I.

11. “Online friends are a life saver. And if you can, 3D friends are even better. Get the medical and mental health care that you need and utilize every avenue of support you can find. Look for support groups. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Use crisis lines. Call your supportive friends.” — Chloe D.

12. “‘Find others with hearts like yours’ — heard this in a song recently and it pretty much sums up my journey. People who haven’t been there can’t understand, so support groups and online communities are priceless.” — Shel B.

13. “You will always find people who care. Family isn’t all there is, friends can support you just as well.” — Mike S.

Update Aug 8 11:57 a.m. PST: Someone has since posted on O’Connor’s behalf that she is safe and surrounded by love. You can read the full statement here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Originally published: August 8, 2017
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